Friday, September 30, 2011

Ode to a pizza parlor.

I got a text message in the middle of Algebra.  I took a quick look and all it said was “Free wheeler is closing”.  I had to wrap up the class, get the next one going, repeat the process a couple more times and then go to a 2 hour faculty meeting.  The message was pushed to the back of my mind.

Until I checked The Gearheads’ blog.  All I can say (not really, as you’ll soon see) is WOW. 

I’ve been involved with Free Wheeler Pizza since July 7th, 1978, in one way or another.  Other than the last couple months and a few years in the 90’s, I’ve been processing their payroll since 1980.  Started out doing it all by hand, on those big ledger sheets, looking up deductions and taxes on a chart, going through miles of 10-key paper at a time.  I got my first real personal computer from them to do the payroll on, an Apple IIe.  Complete with 2, yes two, 5¼” floppy drives.

That place was my first career, I worked there for the last couple of my teen years, through my entire 20’s and the beginning of my 30’s.   I managed the Sugarhouse store at 3 different locations, the West Valley store at 2, the Holladay store and owned my own franchise in Provo for the 6 months before it went bankrupt (a story for another time).  It saw me through my parent’s divorce, turning 21, my 15 years of getting my Bachelor’s degree, going from living at home to owning my own home (a duplex with The Gearheads), and my mother’s death.

Like Mr. Gearhead says in his post, it was more than just a business, it was a family.  And all my real family, all my siblings, were involved with it at one time or another.  Even my parents, who gave their house 4 or 5 years in a row for the annual company anniversary party.

It was a small, locally owned restaurant.  Even in it’s heyday in the mid 80’s, when we were virtually the only pizza delivery place in Salt Lake City, we topped out at 11 stores, but for the most part it was a 1 or 2 store operation.   The owners always worked there, and we all knew them as Mike, Mitch, Al, Tony, Don.   Never as “Mr.” somebody.  Ownership changed hands several times, but it was more like being passed down the family line than selling out to someone, the new owner was always someone you knew, someone you had worked with, partied with and grown with for several years, and in my case sometimes someone who I had hired and been manager for.

Well, I’m gonna head off to sleep, let this sink in a bit.  All I have left to say for now is “Herb, you put up a hell of a fight.  Thanks.”

You can see my first in a line of stories about the place on my other blog: HERE.


Karen S. said...

Max, it's always so cool to see and learn about anoher part of who you are....this is a great story, for anyone to have experienced, even a small part of. What a great extended family, and will it help to have all those memories? Amazing that they could continue on for so many years! I know that feeling of yor first job...mine was working at a Burger Chef in Lansing, Mi during high school...we were all like family, the boss even said I had to not work so many my age...I worked my shifts and picked up others that wanted time off...but we all had such fun being together...but sadly, I moved away from there and my family there was gone......Max, you had a great run with them! Now, on to new things!!!

Max said...

Yes, it was quite a ride. :)

Lisa Shafer said...

Ah, that's a shame. I hate to see a small, local business close anyway. Dang.

Carmi said...

I feel a deep sense of sadness and loss whenever I read about endings like this. Locally owned businesses are the backbone of our economy, yet they're slowly disappearing as franchised chains slowly pave over the planet.

As they do, they remove any sense of uniqueness of a place from the landscape. Drive down the main drag of countless towns, and they all look the same because the identical logos are repeated, identically, in every one.

I can't begin to imagine what we're losing in the process. I'm so sorry for your - and the community's - loss.